Bangladesh Travel Diary: A Most Perfect Morning

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with my adventures exploring this beautiful country..

Yesterday morning was one I couldn’t imagine going better. It started with a boat ride along our local river followed by a rickshaw journey into the hills of the India/Bangladesh border. We walked for miles through green, luscious forests climbing up muddy paths to get the best views (and group photos).

We then visited a church on top of a hill overlooking a long river and the Indian mountains. At the top of the hill (small mountain) we found the churches’ Peace Room, a room precariously perched on the edge where church visitors can take rest after climbing the hill and look down at the light-blue winding river. The room is normally only allowed to be used by church goers but after a couple of phone calls a super friendly local ran up the hill to open it for us. It was a great time to sit down and reflect on what we have achieved as a team in Bangladesh (including our lovely police escorts who live and travel with us). It was also the perfect bird viewing platform- we spotted two eagles and a hawk.

The Peace Room:

Visiting beautiful churches and taking photos of mountains is thirsty work so we headed to the nearest tea shack. Once again the Bangladeshi’s showed how great they are at hospitality, moving the tables and chairs so we could all sit together and watch the randomly placed small tv in the corner of the room. There was about 10 other people dotted around, all watching this tiny tv, in a tea shack in the middle of nowhere on the Indian border. They were watching a slapstick comedy and everybody was in stitches. It was so lovely to see no matter how rural the village, the communities always create space for everyone to gather and enjoy each others company.

After tea (or cha as it’s known locally) we jumped back in the rickshaw and went back to my favourite place of all: The China Clay Hills. As they stretch as far as you can see we explored different lakes to the last time we were there. Our adventuring took us to the top of a rocky hill which provided us with the most stunning views. But reality hit us hard when we realised we had to get down from this rocky, unstable hill wearing our much loved yet rather-useless-in-this-situation flip flops. Long story short, the whole team ended up holding hands in a chain, slipping and sliding our way down. We ended up at the bottom of the hill sweaty and sunburnt but with our bellys hurting from laughing so much. No matter where you are there is always an adventure around the corner in Bangladesh..

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Living with a Tribe

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

For the last 3 months I have been living and working with members of the Garo tribe. Mainly residing in Northern Bangladesh and following the Christian faith the Garo are an extremely welcoming and friendly tribe living in the 21st century. Over the last few months I have got to know members of the tribe and this week I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the Garo Cultural Academy of Bangladesh.

The Garo cultural academy:

A scale model of a Garo traditional tree-house which would house an entire family:

The tribe’s roots date back to 400BC and although they are extremely proud of their past and traditions such as the mothers name being passed on and the man living in the wife’s home, they have adapted to fit-in with modern Bangladesh wearing modern clothes, using new technology and getting jobs outside of agriculture. The tribe also get special privileges from the government to honour their past, they have different property laws and although alcohol is illegal in Bangladesh for everyone, the Garo community are allowed to both make and drink alcohol. Having got friendly with the tribe these special privileges have been extended to us..the vodka is 65% alcohol and the rice wine goes off after a day as it’s so strong and fresh- it had led to some interesting nights of bonding with my team mates!

Four members of my team are Garo and have treated us to Garo food (not for the faint hearted-very spicy) and traditional dances in full Garo outfits (a lot of feathers and colour). The community is incredibly strong and everyone looks out for one another. I am very privileged to have experienced their culture first hand and been invited to their homes to meet their Families. No matter what we are doing; going for walks, leading workshops or drinking tea at the market my diverse team made up of Muslim’s, Hindu’s and Christian’s along with the Garo rival members are always having fun, planning adventures and taking way too many group photos…

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Finding Paradise

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

Growing up I never thought paradise could be found at school; as much I value education hugely I spent most of my days at school waiting for the bell to ring to signal it was the end of the day.

But here in Bangladesh I had the privilege of being invited to visit a prestigious boarding school on the edge of the Indian border. Usually outsiders are never allowed in- your child has to go to the school for you to be allowed a visitors pass. But one of my Bangladeshi team members parents run the school and invited us to visit.

It was an hour long rickshaw journey and short boat trip to reach the walled gardens of the school. Students take turns and great pride in guarding the entrance. We were let in by a boy no older than 12.

We then had a guided tour around the grounds. It was a beauty I have never seen before, I felt like I was on a film set of a children’s film. Students in uniform were enjoying the sun and playing games around the campus. They have 700 students who live and study on sight surrounded by palm tree’s and rivers. They also have their own snack shop, clinic and guests houses.

We were the invited in for snacks at the headmasters living quarters. It reminded me of holiday homes in Spain. It is the most luxury I have seen since coming to Bangladesh two months ago, but the headmaster was nothing but welcoming and humble.

Near the school we had heard there are beautiful, cinematic clay hills. So on the way back we took a detour- and boy was it worth it.

The hills go on for miles creating another film set-like landscape. Group photos were a plenty as we tried not to fall in. I have never seen colours like it; pink clay, orange dust and teal water.

As we stood at the top of the hills, to the South we could look across Bangladesh’s green fields and forests while to the north we could see hundreds of mountains stretching into India. A day I won’t ever forget.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Riverside Hikes 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and here on this blog to keep updated with the adventures and challenges faced when  living Asia.. 

Bangladesh is home to the worlds longest natural beach; the Coxs Bazaar. As I am currently based in landlocked Northern Bangladesh I haven’t had a chance to visit the Beach yet. But here in the north we are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful rivers. 

The Team

After a hard days work the teams’ favourite way to unwind is a sunset walk or hike along the edge of one of the many rivers. Unlike most rivers in England the rivers here don’t have a footpath, you can either walk along the sand or in the river itself- whilst being careful of the quicksand! We have almost lost 5 flip-flops and a team member to quicksand. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Reaching the Indian Border 

I’m currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. Follow me over on Instagram (@madisonbeachphotos) and on this blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

For the past 48 hours we have have been in the centre of a unexpected tropical storm. To keep safe we stayed in our rooms due the high winds and non-stop heavy rain was causing coconuts and branches to fall from trees. The storm also caused a power cut for the whole town and all the surrounding villages so we have been living in the dark using candles for light. But thankfully this morning we woke up to blaring sunshine drying out the sodden ground and the electricity was back on  so we can charge our phones and write some blogs! 

Before the storm hit I had one of the best days in Bangladesh yet. It started off with a very bumpy hour long rickshaw journey to the far north of Bangladesh. We jumped out and headed to a school which the NGO we’re working for funds. They had asked to meet us while we are here in Bangladesh and put on a great welcome with all the kids running out the classroom when they saw us. We played loads of games with them, received a lot high-fives and gave out snacks before bidding farewell. 

We then headed further north towards a wooded area. We weaved our way through truly beautiful paths which guided us through forests and incredibly clear streams. And after a stunning 30 minute walk we reached what we were there for: the Indian border. 

Police on the Indian-Bangladesh Border

The border is made up of mountains, trees and white flags showing there’s no conflict between the two countries. Nowadays the word ‘border’ often conjures up negative connotations but here the border was nothing but a calm green landscape with no one around apart from two houses and the odd farmer. 

We stayed as long as we could in the midday heat before heading back to the rickshaws waiting for us with the snacks we accidentally left behind. On the way back we had to cross a stream. We all slid our flip-flops off and made the short 3 metre journey across- apart from our police escorts who were weighed down by the their big leather boots. But rather than inelegantly sitting down in the mud to take them off, they asked for piggy backs..  

My laughter soon turned to concern as I noticed a leech had made my leg home. Without thinking I grabbed it and tried to pull it off but it dug in further and further. After a couple of minutes I managed to pull it off along with a bit of blood. Luckily it looked worse than it was as the pain soon wore off and I forgot all about it. And anyway it was all worth it for the view.. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Makeshift Monopoly and Police Escorts 

I am currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. I am also having fun documenting all our travels and adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

The last few weeks have all been leading up to us hitting the ground running with our community workshops. On Friday we delivered our first workshops based on health and social issues within the area. They went very smoothly and were received really well by the local youth. 

Leading a workshop

We have been working extremely hard 6 days a week every week,but there is also time for exploring the area, letting our hair down and enjoying ourselves..

As most of my friends back home will testify I am no fashionista. But along with the rest of the team I really enjoyed browsing the market for fabrics, designing our own clothes and then taking these designs to our onsite tailors. Already having a blue and red traditional Bangladesh dress I have opted for some green fabric for a dress, a brown leafed patterned fabric to make a top and I finished of my purchases with a very bold choice. A red and black Jackson Pollock-like abstract fabric. I have no idea how my designs will come to life, they are currently in the tailors’ trusted hands, but I will keep you updated. 

During the week we were invited to watch the cup-final of a local football tournament. Weighed down with our cameras, lots of water and snacks we headed out on the half an hour walk to the pitch. As it was a local tournament we weren’t expecting too many people. But it turns out the whole male population of the village came out in support of the youngsters playing. 

Although I’ve watched many football matches this was a very unique experience. We sat quite literally on the dug-out sidelines hoping not to get hit the face by a ball or stray foot. The pitch was slightly wonky and the crowd moved around the pitch in sync with the sun so they didn’t get too hot. 

Considering it was an important cup final the referee was very relaxed when it came to regulation football kit. One team had their own yellow kit (except one guy who forgot his and played in green) and the other played in the Barcelona home kit. Sitting at boot level it was also very noticeable how few players wore shin pads. But all this being said the atmosphere was great and everyone enthusiastically cheered every time a goal was scored. 
Due to being foreigners and (most likely) our police escort more people were watching us than the game so we headed home at half time. 

We returned home to find the housekeepings’ team answer to our bed bug problem: just put the mattresses on the roof for a bit.

To keep us occupied in the evenings we have focused all our creative energy into making a personalised Bangladesh-style monopoly board. The chance cards include buying new fabric after getting caught in the rain and having to use a squat toilet due to just too much spicy rice. With a storm expected to roll in we are all looking forward to playing our makeshift monopoly. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Adapting to the Flooding 

I am currently based in Bangladesh as part of a team of community workers. I am also having fun documenting all our travels and adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country..

We arrived a month ago into Bangladesh just as it was getting to grips with the flooding that has devastated so many areas of South East Asia. Since arriving it has always been in our minds to contribute to the relief effort but our focus has had to be on the job we are here for. 

But on Saturday, our first day off in a long time, our plans came to fruition. Surrounded by bags, dried dal, hydration sachets and rice we began packing. It only took a couple of hours to get hundreds of bags packed. 

On Sunday we awoke to hundreds of people lining up outside our compound to collect a bag for them and their family. Although it doesn’t come close to solving the flooding crisis it does contribute to those affected staying healthy as they begin to rebuild their homes and businesses. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Getting to Know the Locals 

I am currently based in Bangladesh working in a team of community worker. I am also having fun documenting all our adventures, follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country. 

This past week we have bonding as team and visiting the surrounding communities as much as possible; introducing ourselves in Bangla (well trying to),getting to know the individuals in the communities and working out what health and social issues we could work together to improve. 

Celebrating a team members birthday

It’s been great fun, a particular highlight was visiting a girls school. It was an hour and a half of continuous laughter, games and them being very confident in expressing their concerns for their local villages. They were incredibly helpful and I hope I get to work with them again. 

Playing games at the girls school

As much as we’re getting to know the locals they also want to get to know us, but it doesn’t always go smoothly. Back at the compound my friend in the room next to mine came running in, there was a young girl (around 10 years old) staring at him through his window. She then proceeded to walk round the (should-be secure) compound to our balcony and watched us hanging up our wet clothes. This didn’t concern us as she seemed very sweet and just a bit curious. But then the next thing you know she’s made a beeline for our room and is looking through all our stuff, while we were using the very little Bangla we know to usher her out she grabbed a small cake I had bought at the local market. She then decided to not only eat my one remaining cake but to force feed it to my dairy-intolerant roommate. It was all a bit bizarre but we can laugh about it now. 
The Bangladeshi’s are known for their great hospitality and they have certainly lived up to their name. Almost every new person we meet comes with an invite for cha (milky tea) at their house and to meet their families. We also got invited to our local church, although not religious myself I have always been interested in religion and it was my chosen topic of my university dissertation. The church was incredibly bright and vibrant inside with pictures of flowers drawn by local school children. It was a great privilege to be invited to the church as it’s one of the oldest churches in Bangladesh.  

Drinking cha outside a cafe (I’m second from right)

Everyday at the compound we are cooked for by Ambi (which means grandma), but on Sunday she decided it was time for us to have a go. Two of our team members flourished in the baking hot, unconventional kitchen while the others (myself included) stood around trying not to get in the way. The result was some very tasty (non-spicy) chicken and some crushed garlic potatoes. Cooking like a local is a lot harder than it looks. 

This is what they use to peel vegetables!

And when I say locals I also mean unwanted local animals. The grass area of the compound I’m currently living in is home to cows, chickens, baby goats and dogs which are all very well behaved. But recently thousands of ants have been making their home in the door frames of our rooms. Noting a bit of insect spray can’t sort out. But now we have a bigger, well squeakier problem, as I walked into my room last night a mouse on top of my roommate’s suitcase jumped down and hid behind our chest of draws; we can still hear it scurrying around. Hopefully the resident cat will take care of it. 

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Riding Rickshaws and Buying Clothes 

I am currently based in Bangladesh working as a community worker and documenting my adventures. Follow my blog to keep updated with the ups and downs of living in such a beautiful yet challenging country.

I am currently getting settled into the village which I will be calling home for the next 3 months. I have spent the last  few days learning how to fit in.

We first headed to our local market, a 3 minute walk from our compound. Our group descended on a fabric shop, giving them the most business they’ve had all year. We sat on stalls lining the middle of the shop and swivelled and pointed to fabrics we liked the look off. Two hours later, and £6 down I had got enough fabric to make two traditional tops and a pair of trousers.

After browsing the market for an hour or so we headed back to our compound and went straight to our onsite tailors office to get measured up and put our orders in. With a little luck not everything was lost in translation and I won’t end up with an intricate, Bangladesh inspired onesie.

At our onsite tailors

We have also now started to visit the different communities we will be working in- by rickshaw. My first time in a rickshaw did not disappoint, I absolutely loved it. We got stuck in the mud, nearly fell out a few times and scraped a cows bum but I’m already looking forward to the next time we get to ride them.

Taking a break at a community library

The communities have all been very different; from a native tribe to an all girls school where a hundred kids followed us and said ‘how are you doing?’ in their best British accents. Even if they weren’t expecting us every community laid on a spread of cakes and tea, lots and lots of tea. In Bangladesh it’s very common to have at least 3 tea breaks a day. I am currently made up of 40% tea and 60% rice.

I’m looking forward to having my first day off for a week tomorrow and then getting stuck into our community work.

Bangladesh Travel Diary: Adapting To Life in Bangladesh 

Adapting to life in Bangladesh
I have spent the last few days here in the capital Dhaka learning about living in the harsh conditions and getting to know the team I’ll be working with. We will be heading north next week to start working with communities to improve their quality of life through workshops and events, while  we’re doing that I’ll also be documenting our adventures.

Part of the team here in Bangladesh (I’m in the stripy top)

Before we head off for what is sure to be a sick-inducing 8 hour journey on Bangladesh’s rocky roads I have been adapting to life here in Asia.

The biggest difference is of course the heat! Being British I am used to summers being around 25 degrees (if we’re lucky) yet it is autumn here and at night it is still over 27 degrees. I am constantly hot and the tiniest tasks make me sweat. But I’ve found taking a shower just 4 times a day seems to sort out the sweatiness.

One of our mosquito nets

I have also been adjusting to wearing a scarf at all times, apart from when I asleep. But I enjoy being part of the culture and fitting in a little more. Although it’s very awkward when your scarf accidentally dips into someone’s tea!

I always underestimate the annoyance of mosquitoes and this time it was no different. Within the first day my legs were covered in super itchy bites despite the fact I covered myself in smelly mosquitoes repellant. But I have been washing them with cold water which really helps them to heal quickly.

Yesterday we witnessed our first thunder storm, it would’ve been incredible had I not just put out my newly handwashed clothes onto the balcony.. but it was still great to watch as the cooling rain lashed down. Although it did cause a 3 hour power cut!

It is going to be a busy few days travelling and settling into my new home but I will be updating the blog where possible and taking loads of photos!

You can find me over on Instagram @madisonbeachphotos or on my website